Statbel's provisional mortality figures for 2020

Statbel's provisional mortality figures for 2020

Statbel, the Belgian statistical office, publishes an overview of the provisional mortality figures for the year 2020, for all death causes. Mortality figures will continue to be updated weekly in 2021. Sciensano also publishes more comprehensive figures on Covid-related deaths today.

Mortality and excess mortality

127,134 deaths were registered in 2020. This is 18,389 more deaths (17%) than in 2019 and 16% more than the average for the period 2017-2019. This percentage is a comparison of observed deaths and does not take into account the evolution of the population structure. Sciensano conducts a more in-depth analysis of mortality according to the population structure.

Differences by region

The overall mortality figures hide regional differences. Compared to the average number of deaths in 2017-2019, the number of deaths increased in 2020 by 16% in Belgium, by 13% in the Flemish Region, by 19% in the Walloon Region and by 23% in the Brussels-Capital Region.

Total number of deaths 2017 2018 2019 2020 Average 2017-2019 versus 2020
Belgium 109,629 110,645 108,745 127,134 16.0%
Flemish Region 62,530 63,397 62,420 70,880 13.0%
Walloon Region 38,068 38,329 37,409 45,249 19.0%
Brussels-Capital Region 9,031 8,919 8,916 11,005 23.0%

Figures by municipality

Statbel also publishes the provisional mortality figures by municipality.

At first glance, these figures do not show any major impact of population density on excess mortality. Municipalities such as Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, with a population density of 23,358 inhabitants per km², do not have a significantly higher excess mortality than municipalities such as Gingelom with a population density of 148 inhabitants per km². Municipalities whose residents have a lower average tax income are also not more affected than municipalities with a higher average tax income. The differences in population structure between the municipalities may play a role, but the effects are not immediately visible. Even if we look at the excess mortality of people over 85, we do not immediately see a clear effect between population density and excess mortality, because the trend line in Figure xxBxx is flat (horizontal to the X-axis).

Historical data since 1840

Statbel's publication also contains historical data, with mortality figures per year since 1841 and per month since 1919. In 2020, mortality figures are the highest in April (15,518 deaths) and November (14,032 deaths). Such high monthly absolute mortality figures have never been recorded since 1919 for both months. With the historical dataset, we can also compare gross mortality rates. When we calculate the ratio of the number of deaths to the total population (the so-called gross mortality rate), then 2020 is certainly not in first place. The gross mortality rate for 2020 ranks 147th (among the 180 years since 1841) and is at approximately the same level as the gross mortality rates registered in the 80’s.

Year TOTAL population Mortality Number of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants Gross mortality rate (in ‰) (~mortality figure per 1000 inhabitants)
1986 9,858,895 111,671 1,133 11.3
1984 9,853,023 110,577 1,122 11.2
2020 11,492,641 127,134 1,106 11.1
1989 9,927,612 107,332 1,081 10.8
1987 9,864,751 105,840 1,073 10.7

This comparison with population figures and observed mortality figures does not take into account the population structure. Further scientific research must show the impact of the population structure on these mortality figures.

Number of deaths in April, top 5 in absolute figures since 1919

YEAR April*
2020* 15,518
1944 11,334
1941 11,030
1929 10,564
1943 10,538

Number of deaths in November, top 5 in absolute figures since 1919

YEAR November*
2020* 14,032
1944 10,445
1977 10,403
1941 10,229
1971 10,079

*The figures for 2020 are provisional. The final figures will be published on 16 June 2021.

Gross mortality rate

The gross mortality rate is the ratio, expressed in ‰, between the number of deaths and the population of a specific year. Since the 1990s, this gross mortality rate has been decreasing annually. It amounted to 9.5 ‰ in 2019. This gross mortality rate increases sharply to 11.1 ‰ in 2020.


Note: the provisional mortality figures published by Statbel today are a reprocessing of the weekly figures published throughout 2020. A limited number of deaths that took longer than average to register were recovered. This is a phenomenon related to the structure of the weekly analysis and the registration process. It has nothing to do with coronavirus crisis. A definitive figure will be published in June 2021, together with the official population figures on 01/01/2021.